Confronting Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System - Thomas Kenniff - District Attorney

Confronting Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System

As a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, Thomas Kenniff has witnessed the intersection between mental health and crime. He has also seen a system that has consistently failed to confront the complex issues presented by defendants who suffer from mental illness. Often what these individuals need is intervention not incarceration. Yet antiquated laws deprive courts of the ability to act, and uninformed policies permit those most in need of treatment to either languish in jail, or slip through the system altogether, without care. This perpetuates a public health crisis that ignores individuals in need and puts public safety at risk. As District Attorney, Thomas Kenniff will push to expand the number of cases handled in mental health treatment courts and widen the eligible offenses that can be referred to those courts. Thomas will also champion changes to our criminal procedure law that will require a qualified mental health professional to be present in court at arraignments, and allow judges to refer defendants to pre-arraignment mental health screenings whenever there is cause to believe a defendant is suffering from a psychiatric condition. If a defendant is determined to present an imminent risk to himself or the community, judges will have authority to order a temporary commitment to psychiatric care.

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